Understanding the 4 Types of Senior Living

January 11, 2022  |  By Brandon Schleeter  |  Active Senior Living

The world of senior living is completely different than it was even just a few decades ago, which is good news. Gone are the days of more clinical settings that felt more like a hospital than a home. Today’s communities are beautiful and bustling centers of activity designed to meet the preferences of the adults who live there.

4 Types of Senior Living

While the good news is that there are multiple types of senior living options available to suit nearly every budget and interest, it can be challenging to sort through the wide variety of options. Fortunately, you can take a step in the right direction to make a confident decision about community living if you first know what type of senior living you need now and what you might need in the future.

Welcome to your introduction to senior living, where we’ll break down the four most common types of senior living options you will find while researching communities in your desired location.

Independent Living

Independent living is a lot like living at home but without all of the tasks and costs associated with home ownership. Thanks to maintenance-free living, residents don’t have to worry about coordinating lawn maintenance, snow removal, or housekeeping visits. A team of professionals is there to take care of all of the chores, giving residents the gift of free time.

Residents at active senior communities also benefit from the consolidation of bills into one monthly fee versus the burden of having to keep track of numerous bills at home. Beyond the convenience this offers, another oft-overlooked benefit is that communities can leverage purchasing power and pass those cost savings directly to residents. 

Independent living residents are all unique, with their own history and passions. This makes for a diverse community of neighbors who are all ready to make their well-being the primary focus. In an independent living community, you can find residents who work full-time or part-time, consult on the side, or are fully retired. You will find social butterflies who attend all of the happy hour social events as well as introverts who prefer to host a small group of friends for a weekly glass of wine on their patio. 

Independent living is full of choice, whether it be where to eat—at home, at one of the on-site restaurants, or out in the greater community—or what your daily schedule will look like. Residents also enjoy choosing their homes from multiple floor plans and senior housing options, including apartment homes or villas. 

Residents who live in an independent living community have access to a variety of amenities and resources that are designed to enhance their current lifestyle and give them the chance to try something new. While each community is different, there are some common amenities communities share:

  • On-site fitness centers, swimming pools, and group exercise classes make healthy living more convenient. Plus, residents can take a class or swim with a friend, making healthy choices more fun.

  • Programs and events are offered daily on campus and include lectures about local history, art workshops to learn a new skill, live concerts, beer, and wine tastings, and trips to destinations near and far.

  • Most communities offer multiple ways to connect with nature, including on-site walking paths, outdoor spaces to entertain or enjoy solitude, and community garden plots.

  • One of the favorite perks of independent living is never having to chop, cook, or clean up. Residents always have the option to take part in flexible dining programs, giving them the choice to dine at the restaurant on campus or grab something quick at the bistro.

Independent living might be for you if you are looking for the opportunity to say, “Goodbye,” to home maintenance tasks and instead say, “Hello,” to new neighbors who are ready to accompany you to a meal, on a trip, or to yoga class.

Assisted Living

More than 800,000 Americans call an assisted living community home, and for good reason. Assisted living options for seniors offer adults the perfect mix of independent living-style amenities with the additional support of around-the-clock personal care.

For many assisted living residents, having personalized care from a trained caregiver for certain tasks throughout the day often increases independence and decreases daily stress. Having that extra reminder or helping hand can give the resident back their time and help them feel empowered to take on their day.

Assisted living communities offer additional caregiver support, but residents also benefit from a variety of amenities and services designed to cultivate health and wellness:

  • Communities have wellness resources such as physician and podiatry visits, health screenings, and a nurse available to manage medications and communicate with doctors.

  • Events and entertainment are offered multiple times throughout the day and can include tai chi classes, spiritual fellowship gatherings, walking clubs, travel programs, happy hour socials, and trips to local museums, restaurants, and cultural experiences.

  • Assisted living communities are integrated with the greater community. You’ll find neighbors stopping by to volunteer with their therapy dogs, local school groups conducting living history interviews, and local restaurants dropping off cuisine to celebrate different cultures.

  • Speaking of dining, assisted living residents enjoy three meals a day with friends in the community restaurant. There are plenty of choices for entrees and side dishes, and the chefs aim to provide foods that are delicious, nutritious, and comforting.

Assisted living might be for you if you have fallen recently, find yourself struggling with a few personal care tasks each week, or would benefit from the peace of mind that comes with knowing a caregiver is always nearby to assist.

Memory Care

For those living with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, daily life can be challenging and even dangerous. A specialized memory care community is designed to meet those challenges and provide a comforting and supportive homelike environment. Caregivers who work there are given extra, ongoing education specific to cognitive decline, so they can be more familiar with dementia and the tools they need to support residents.

In addition to specially trained caregivers, memory care communities feature environmental design to enhance safety without limiting choice. Residents also benefit from amenities and services:

  • Caregivers and nurses manage medications and provide assistance and support.

  • Programs and events are designed specifically for those living with cognitive decline.

  • There are multiple ways to connect with nature, including a secured courtyard and walking paths.

  • Dining experiences are comforting and never overstimulating.

  • Family support and education, including support groups, are available. 

Memory care might be a good option for you if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

Skilled Nursing

Skilled nursing facilities, once referred to as “nursing homes,” offer high acuity, skilled nursing care. These facilities feel more like a hospital than a home with a more clinical atmosphere.

While some patients live in a skilled nursing community long-term, many patients receive short-term intensive care to rehabilitate, such as intensive physical, occupational, or physical therapy, or complex medical management services after a hospital stay, surgery, or other procedure. These short-term patients live in the community for a few weeks to a few months while they recover and get stronger so they can return home safely and with confidence.

Skilled nursing facilities offer 24-hour nurse-supervised care and the ability to provide skilled services such as wound management, complex condition management, and intravenous medication monitoring. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy are also offered on-site at a skilled nursing facility, but it is important to note that many other senior care solutions, such as assisted living or memory care, also find ways to meet the therapy needs of their residents by offering on-site access.

Skilled nursing might be best for you if you have a chronic condition that requires the oversight of a nurse 24 hours per day, are recovering after a surgery or hospitalization, or need specialized or skilled services.

Next Steps

Now that you know a bit more about the types of senior living options available, you can begin the process of choosing a community. If you’re wondering how to choose a senior living community, it’s best to begin by finding the type of community that will serve you now and in the future. Then, you can set up tours of potential communities to learn more about their amenities, services, and costs.

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